Even if you’re not preparing to send a son or daughter to college for the first time, the signs of the start of a new semester are inescapable. From the incessant pre-season football frenzy to the endless lines at your local Target, nobody is immune to the higher education version of back-to-school hype.
While that’s the softer, brighter side of the start of a new school year for fresh-faced 18-year-olds and their parents, there is also mounting concern that those young adults are increasingly susceptible to becoming victims of hazing and other forms of abuse during their first year on campus – any campus, anywhere in the U.S.
Hazing remains at epidemic proportions despite the efforts – by many schools, student groups and outside non-profit hazing-prevention groups – to stem the tide. But there has not been nearly enough education focused on students, starting in middle school if not sooner, before they get to college, or on the profound, possibly life-saving role parents can play to help prepare their children for what to expect, and how to react, during those first few stress-filled and social-pressure packed months on campus. It may be the most important role of a mother or father as they prepare to pack up, drop off, and move in their first-year student.
Chances are you have already had a heart-to-heart with your child about everything from sex and drugs, alcohol, to bullying. Those risk-centered conversations may have started in elementary school, or middle school. But have you had a sit down about hazing? Sadly, parents cannot rely on high schools to have prepared your children for the prevalence of college hazing, let alone even to have educated about the meaning of the often-misunderstood term.
But you can. Take the time – even if it is on your drive to campus for fall semester drop-off – to tell them that hazing is a crime, not a prank. It is any activity required of someone who is seeking to join or participate in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses, or endangers regardless of the person’s willingness to participate. Common hazing practices include alcohol/binge drinking, humiliation, isolation, sleep deprivation and sexual acts. Additional hazing rituals that may lead to traumatic injuries include beating, branding, consuming nonfood substances and simulated drowning. And while hazing is often associated with fraternities and sororities, it is not exclusive to them by any means.
Any student can become the victim of hazing. And any student, and parent, can become a powerful force in the national movement to end hazing.
Stophazing.org is one of organizations devoted to promoting hazing awareness and prevention. In one of its studies (http://www.stophazing.org/hazing-view-student-reporting-perceptions-prevention/ ) the non-profit reported that 95% of those students who are hazed, will choose not to report the incidents to campus officials because they don’t want their group to get in trouble, they are afraid of negative consequences to them individually, they are afraid other members of the group would find out they reported it, and they didn’t know where to report. As a parent, you can join stophazing.org and others on and off campus who are demanding that schools not only require greater educational efforts but make incident reporting quick, confidential, and effective in stopping the practice.
Before your first-year student leaves the nest for fall semester, we strongly encourage some quality family time visiting the following and take a stand to end hazing: